Nothing could be done for John Lennon when he was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital late on 8 December 1980. His injuries were too severe and he had lost too much blood.
Seconds after dying from multiple gunshot wounds, the Beatles song All My Loving was heard on the hospital sound system.
That day had been a busy and productive one for Lennon. He had a session with renowned photographer Annie Liebovitz – which produced one of the most famous images of the Beatle as a naked Lennon hugs his wife Yoko Ono – and he spent hours in the recording studio.
John and Yoko Ono returned to their apartment in New York’s swanky Dakota building at around 10.50pm. As they walked to the door, five gunshots rang out and John staggered up the stairs before collapsing, having been hit in the back and chest. The shooter, deranged fan Mark David Chapman, had been hanging around the Dakota all day, and even had his copy of John’s latest album, Double Fantasy, signed that afternoon, while he waited to kill his former hero.
Chapman, with a history of mental instability and failed suicides, had been a zealous Beatles fan, but turned on the band when he became a born-again Christian. He regarded John’s “more popular than Jesus” comment to be blasphemous, and the lyrics “Imagine no possessions” from Imagine deeply hypocritical, considering John’s wealth.
After the shooting, he made no attempt to flee, but sat reading The Catcher in the Rye, a book he had become obsessed by as he related to the troubled main character. Inside his copy, he had written, “This is my statement”. A disbelieving onlooker approached Chapman screaming, “Do you know what you’ve just done?” and he calmly answered: “Yes, I just shot John Lennon”.
Refusing to plead insanity, Chapman was sentenced to 20 years to life. He remains behind bars, having been denied parole eight times.
On 14 December, countless mourners converged in cities worldwide, with some 225,000 distraught people descending on New York’s Central Park, near where John was shot. Yoko had earlier released a statement reading, “John loved and prayed for the human race, please do the same for him”.
Lennon had fallen in love with New York City. In an interview only two days before the shooting, he enthusiastically talked about how safe he felt there – and free from the usual Beatles hysteria – claiming, “I can walk down the street safely”.